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I always knew I wanted to have kids, but it wasn’t until I decided to go for it that I realized what a miracle making another life can be. Growing up Dominican American, I never thought twice about the side jabs and jokes our culture sometimes makes about getting married or when you’re going to have kids. I just brushed them off and continued going full force into my career.

At around 33, I had some health issues and my doctor told me I should consider starting a family right away. At the time, I remember being so angry with him for being so blunt. Not only did I get comments from friends or family about family planning, but now also my doctor. Looking back, I’m now grateful because it got the conversation started with my partner and we were in for a ride. After 6 months (then 34), I decided to get some tests because we were not having any luck. I happened to work at a job that had full fertility coverage, so it was kind of a “why not” scenario. It turned out that for my age, one of my hormone levels was low, and it would in fact take longer to get pregnant.

This is when I finally understood that the jabs and jokes were not ok. We spent a year and eight months trying to get pregnant. We tried everything and we were unsuccessful. On top of all that stress, people were asking us when we were going to have kids, advising us to relax, to pray and countless other hurtful suggestions that don’t help when you’re in the thick of trying to start a family. Tactless comments and suggestions that lead you to pull away and deal with all of these challenges in isolation. I made a decision to stop telling my parents about my fertility treatments because of the way they were reacting. When I first started at Latino USA, I even pitched a segment on infertility within the Latino community to help us better understand the gravity of what women go through.

Jeanne Montalvo Lucar and her son Martin in the Latino USA recording studio in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Jeanne Montalvo Lucar)

Eventually we did get pregnant in 2017, on a break from treatments, like the cliche everyone talks about. I had a son, so I got a break from worrying about family planning. Until of course, people started asking, “¿Y el hermanito/a?” When are you going to give him a brother/sister? Knowing my own history it was something in the back of my mind, so imagine my surprise when I got an unplanned pregnancy in the winter of 2019. I was ecstatic. This time around, I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of months of trying, in quiet isolation.

But something was off from the beginning. From my first blood test, the numbers didn’t line up and despite seeing a heartbeat early on, at my next appointment the pregnancy was not viable—no more heartbeat. I was devastated. When we got pregnant the first time, miscarriage never crossed my mind. I thought, “I’m pregnant, I’m done.” But here I was now isolating again with a miscarriage because my family didn’t know how to speak to me, and honestly I didn’t know what to do either. So, I just didn’t speak about it.

Jeanne Montalvo Lucar showing her baby bump, at home during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Jeanne Montalvo Lucar)

But knowing about my struggles with infertility and miscarriage didn’t stop people from asking, “¿Y el hermanito/a?” And that was hard, especially when you’re quietly dealing with things that are often considered taboo in the Latino community. People don’t want to talk about fertility problems, miscarriages or pre- and postpartum depression, but they sure love to ask you about starting a family without knowing what you may have been struggling with for years.

On today’s episode of Latino USA, Maria Hinojosa and I sit down with certified birth doula Elizabeth Perez, and lay it all out on the table. No subject is off limits. And hopefully with more conversations like this one, we can change the overall narrative from, “When are you … getting married? Starting a family? Having a second child?” to “How are you feeling today?”

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Montalvo.

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3 thoughts on “Getting Real About Pregnancy

  1. muchismas gracias from the bottom of my mother, grandmother doctor heart. I love the way you rolled out this conversation.

  2. This story and the radio discussion with Elizabeth Perez and Maria Hinojosa moved me deeply. As a postpartum doula working with families in the Pacific NW, and as a parent, I have both direct and indirect experiences of many of the facets of the perinatal experience discussed in the show. The added layers of cultural expectations and the racism implicit in modern, medicalized birth are such important aspects to consider for all of us who work with birthing people and their families. So, a word of thanks for this frank discussion. And a word of hope to families who are struggling with the additional isolation of pregnancy and the postpartum during COVID-19 – there are postpartum doula agencies, like the one I work with, that have worked hard to define/redefine their practices to make them as safe as possible during the pandemic. I encourage families to reach out to postpartum doulas in their communities to find out what they are doing to modify their practices for in-person support or bring their support services online – postpartum doulas are committed to walking alongside families to bring celebration and support to the postpartum period, even during a pandemic.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful, honest, well-rounded discussion about pregnancy. Womens’ stories are hard to find in the media, especially ones about intimate, NATURAL aspects of life like pregnancy.

    Would Futuro Media consider creating transcripts of stories? That would be really helpful to folks with hearing issues.
    Thank you for all your good work!

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